Mostafa Kamal MajumderThe present political confrontations in Bangladesh have been termed as the severest since the restoration of democracy in 1991; but political analysts have started telling that this might also be a turning point in the political history of the country.Those professing secular political course with apparent patronisation from people in the corridors of power have made statements that the movement that has originated since the February 28 pronouncement of imprisonment for life against one of the accused in the crimes against humanity case, would decide who would prevail – they themselves or the Islamists.
Some utterances and postings made in Internet blogs by some Projanma Chattar activists have on the other hand alarmed most Islamists who have come under a broad coalition – Hefazat-e-Islam – with an equally strong challenge to fight ‘atheists’ to the last till their 13 demands are met and ‘absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah’ is restored in the constitution.
Political observers term the present imbroglio that carries with it the threat of further escalation of violence as an outcome of aggressive power politics, which may create such conditions that things might not be same again in politics.
While allegations of resorting to militancy have been leveled against the Jamaat and its student affiliate Shibir, with their leaders already arrested or facing arrest; the BNP has been accused of resorting terrorism in the name of movement for elections under a nonpartisan government, and for ‘harbouring Jamaat and Shibir.’ Most leaders of the party are now behind bars.
BNP and its allies are threatening harsher movement if their arrested leaders are not released and those of their leaders and workers whose whereabouts remain unascertained since their enforced disappearances – are not returned to their families.
This unfortunate development has come 22 years after the restoration if democracy with firm efforts to draw a line of demarcation between the parties which together fought for democratic transition and embraced parliamentary democracy as their political model.
Strong come-back of Islamists to the picture now has been at a time when support of voters to Islami and leftist parties had been on the wane in favour of the two major parties which were getting increasingly more shares of votes since the 1991 elections.
A looks into the results of the past general elections show that while BNP’s share of votes rose from 30.8 per cent to 41.1 per cent from 1991 to 2001 that of the Awami League jumped from 30.1 percent to 40.2 per cent during the same period. Jatiya Party’s share of votes however fell from 11.9 per cent to 7.22 per cent while that the Jamaat-e-Islami’s vote bank shrunk from 12.1 per cent to 4.28 percent.
The Communist party of Bangladesh and NAP Muzaffar which got 1.2 percent and 0.8 per cent of votes and five and one seats respectively in the 1991 elections have had no representation in subsequent Parliaments.
The Bksal and the Ganatantri party which bagged 1.8 percent and 0.4 percent votes and five seats and one seat respectively have subsequently merged with the Awami league.
In the 2008 elections Awami League polled 49 per cent votes and 230 seats while BNP got 33.2 per cent votes and 30 seats. Compared to that Jatiya Party got seven percent votes and 27 seats while Jamaat bagged two seats with 4.6 percent votes.
Political pundits believe that the present political developments might change the trend. To which direction only time will tell
(First Published in The New Nation, Dhaka on 20 April 2013)